Parents of Public School Children Beware!

Trasnformative Education – A Looming Disaster


By: Dr. Charles Ormsby – October 2011

A Vision for                  Transformative Education

(Taken from TransformEdu.Org Conference Proceedings)

“These perceptions together form a vision of transformative education that is consolidated into the following interwoven aspects”:
• Transformation is to be the goal and the process of all educative encounters
• Transformative education entails a safe, supportive and sustainable environment and allows an organic and nurturing process (Meaning: Sufficient finances for the physical environment, Effective training for all educational staff, Human relations to underlie the whole educational process, (Be of) human-scale – in class size and overall learner-educator ratio)
• For education to be transformative, there should be a transformed view of the relationship between the learners, teachers and institutions (e.g., … for education to be transformative, teachers should be perceived as role models, facilitators and mentors, co-inquirers and critical friends, experienced co-learners, respectful guides and compassionate helpers in the educational process)
• What can be learned and how to go about learning must be negotiated through dialogue
• Individual transformation can have a significant effect on overall human development as well as social transformation

Learning about the latest educational fads must be one of the most boring experiences known to mankind. But if you have a child in a public school and you care about his or her education and future prospects, you should be forewarned that the latest, politically-correct education fad is on your doorstep.

The new elixir is called Transformative Education and public schools are being duped into adopting this pseudo-education philosophy. Before proceeding, please read the summary in the nearby box.

If your eyes glaze over as you read this, I sympathize with you. Count yourself as lucky that you didn’t have to read the whole article, or even worse, the remainder of the conference proceedings.

All lies must be mixed with little bits of sweetener and self-evident truths. These are added to make the poison more palatable. Who would disagree that “transformation is to be the goal of any education community”? Or that students need a “safe, supportive, sustainable, nurturing … environment”?

Yes, we want to transform students from being ignorant children with few skills to knowledgeable young adults with a broad and useful set of skills. And, of course, we want to do this in a safe, supportive … Oh heck, this is such obvious pabulum it doesn’t deserve further attention.

If the leaders of our public schools have not been stressing these attributes every day they go to work, I propose we take them out to the school yard next week and beat them with a stick. <(;-)

Such indisputable filler is the Trojan horse of all new-fangled education philosophies. None of these sweeteners are new or add anything of value to the obvious list of policies to be honored by any educational institution.

There are two major objections to this latest fad: What is included AND what is missing.

First, what is missing:

Do you see any references to academic content? There are none, unless you think that our public schools are training community organizers.

Are there any innovative pedagogical techniques? Not unless you think casting teachers “as role models, facilitators and mentors, co-inquirers and critical friends, experienced co-learners, respectful guides and compassionate helpers in the educational process” represents an educational breakthrough.

All teachers understand that they need to develop a relationship with their students; one that is conducive to learning. For some students this is best achieved with a smile while others require a not-so-polite kick in the butt. Some students challenge themselves and merely need encouragement while others require a frank discussion of the consequences of ignorance.

Students and teachers are not co-learners. Certainly a teacher should always be learning, but the student teacher relationship is not one of co-equal learners. The teacher is the teacher over 99% of the time for grades K-12.

Are educational priorities that relate to established fields of study (e.g., language arts, mathematics, science, and history) provided, or is guidance given regarding suggested achievement goals? No. In fact, the article rails against such “prescriptive” curricula.

Faults with what is included:

Given the glaring absence of any guidance concerning key issues, the consistent smattering of leftist political jargon is very unsettling. Least offensive is the knee-jerk support for “adequate” funding for facilities, teacher training, and the support of low “class size and overall learner-educator ratio” – now called “human scale,” a new buzz phrase to confuse and disarm the public.

More offensive is the admitted agenda of promoting “social justice,” leftist code for advancing a socialist state, promoting wealth re-distribution, and demanding equal outcomes (not equal opportunity).

After outlining their vision in the original article, the authors concluded by unveiling their real agenda: “Despite the fact that our main analysis focused on individual transformation and personal growth, the real underlying discussion was on a larger scale of transformation – social transformation and ultimately building a better world. In today’s world, when we are constantly confronted by social injustice and inequality, the unbalanced distribution of material resources and, above all, political power residing in the hands of a few, (the) transformative educational vision has an important role to play in making a difference in the world situation.” [Emphasis added.]

Is this what our public schools need? Is this what parents want as the philosophy that guides their children’s education? Will this serve to improve academic outcomes? Will this provide the basis for our students to succeed or excel in college?
Public schools have produced abysmal educational outcomes for decades. A high percentage of students departing our public schools (especially urban school districts) read and write at or below the eighth grade level. Their math and science skills are often even worse.

What our schools need is a REAL transformation, not a politicization of the educational process.
What would be most helpful is expanding competition in education; i.e., providing meaningful school choice for students and parents.

Short of that, administrators and school boards must:
• Set high, quantitative academic goals with specific achievement dates
• Ensure that a well coordinated curriculum is in place that sets high expectations for academic achievement at every grade level
• Set standards for teacher performance and ensure that effective teacher performance evaluations are consistently carried out
• Insist that ineffective teachers rapidly improve or be dismissed and that high performance teachers be adequately rewarded (with higher pay or bonuses)
• Use the bully pulpit to actively encourage parental involvement
• Insist that disruptive students be removed from regular classrooms
• Be on the alert for education fads that waste resources or do not effectively improve academic results

Locally, the Lawrence School Committee is searching for a new superintendent who will be “transformative.”
If the transformation they want is a real and rapid improvement in academic outcomes, the Committee should seek a superintendent who will aggressively pursue the policies listed above while rejecting destructive education fads like Transformative Education.

Absent this, Lawrence parents should grab their children and head for the exits as fast as they can.